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Federal Court Sides with Realtors Sued by E-Mail Distribution Firm

Updated on February 21, 2015

Patents Don't Stop Realtors' E-Mail

A federal court in New Jersey recently gave realtors greater discretion on how they update their clients through their web sites and e-mail without fear of lawsuits.

A data retrieval firm claimed in a lawsuit that realtors who use e-mail and data distribution systems similar to the one owned by the company infringed their patent.

But the federal court said the realtors are pursuing similar ideas for updating clients through e-mails but not stealing anyone’s patent rights.

The court’s ruling in Data Distribution Technologies LLC v. Brer Affiliates Inc. means realtors do not need to worry about lawsuits over their web sites as long as they are not consciously copying other data distributors.

Data Distribution Technologies sent letters to realtors informing them they were infringing the company’s patent, called “Web-Updated Database with Record Distribution by Email.” They also sued some of the realtors.

However, the federal court ruling said the patent was too “abstract” to claim the realtors did anything wrong. Instead, the realtors were merely updating their clients about properties in a way used by nearly all real estate professionals, the court said.

Before the patent could be enforced against the realtors, it would have to represent an original technology that was “new and useful.”

The realtors were using computers, web sites and e-mail, which have existed for more than 20 years.

The decision appears to have implications far beyond the real estate industry. The ruling provides a basis to oppose many patent infringement lawsuits that claim patent rights in computerized methods used by a variety of businesses.

The case is Data Distrib. Tech., LLC v. Brer Affiliates, Inc., No. 12-4878 (D.N.J. Aug. 19, 2014).

E-Mail is a Free Speech Right
E-Mail is a Free Speech Right

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